Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley

Like turkey soup but want to change things up a bit this year with your turkey leftovers? Now here’s a detour from tradition, a riff on a classic Middle Eastern lemon chicken soup.

The strong flavor of turkey meat holds up beautifully to the acidic lemon and bright turmeric, cumin, and ginger spices. The addition of barley gives the soup body.

We used turkey stock from the carcass of a roast turkey, but you could easily use chicken stock.

Turkey Soup with Lemon and Barley Recipe

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

If you are cooking gluten-free, use rice instead of barley.


  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, grated or minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
  • Strips of lemon zest, from one lemon*
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup barley (more barley will yield a thicker soup)
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (can sub with more parsley)

*Use a vegetable peeler to peel strips of zest from a lemon. Use a sharp knife to scrape out and discard any of the white pith that still remains on the inside of the zest strips.


1 Sauté the onion, garlic, spices: Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the grated onion and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook another minute, then mix in the turmeric, cumin, ground ginger and a generous pinch of salt.

2 Add stock, zest, bring to simmer then add barley: Pour in the turkey stock and add the strips of lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, then add the barley. Simmer gently until the barley is cooked, about 20-30 minutes.

3 Add cooked turkey, lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper: When the barley is cooked through, add the chopped cooked turkey, lemon juice, parsley and cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently just until the turkey is warmed through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the lemon zest strips before serving.

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Showing 4 of 35 Comments / Reviews

  • Nancy Rohr

    We thoroughly enjoyed it! Terrific! I used 1 T each fresh grated lemon rind, ginger and turmeric, 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice and 2 big sprigs of fresh thyme. I also added diced celery and carrot, used 8 cups freshly made turkey stock and 1/4 cup,of dry cooking sherry. Fantastic!

  • Carrie Gee

    I NEVER leave comments, but this recipe is delicious! We have made it twice now; first after Thanksgiving and most recently after Christmas. I made bone broth from the turkey carcass (and some frozen chicken bones) to use in the soup both times. The second time I added a parmesan rind in step two for a kick of umami which had the desired effect. Amazing! This is now our "go to" post turkey recipe.

  • Barbara

    Terrific soup!!!!! We love it. Even better the second day.

  • Creativeme

    Very tasty! Not usually a fan of Turkey soup, but this one is truly special. I substituted the barley with diced sweet potato, and the result was very nice. Lots of flavour! The lemon just made it all come together.

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